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Covetousness: No limits to amassing of earthly property by tycoons

IT'S the immoderate desire for earthly goods as well as situations such as power. And while it's a sin of excess, the object of the individual's desire need not be evil. The real issue is the manner in which one regards the object of one's desire.

Could the definition of any sin come closer to describing the ungodly affliction that gripped so many of Ireland's property developers during the bubble years?

Who, for example, would ever have thought that a contaminated piece of waste ground next to the docks in Dublin's Ringsend could be worth €412m? Well, Bernard McNamara did when he spearheaded a stampede of Davy Stockbrokers' wealthiest private clients in 2006 to buy it with the promise of an eye-watering return of 17 per cent on their investment.

It's hard to know if they believed in the project itself, where one-bed apartments would have started at €500,000 a pop, or in the man who at the height of his powers lived in a 20,000sq ft mansion on Ailesbury Road and commuted in his helicopter from his landing pad at Booterstown in preference to the tedium of driving his Mercedes S350.

But whatever about Mr McNamara's deluded belief that an abandoned corner of Ringsend could be an exclusive enclave of Dublin 4, whoever would have dreamed that two tired hotels in Ballsbridge would be bought for €379m, demolished and then redeveloped into a 37-storey skyscraper where the apartments would sell like hotcakes for €1m apiece? Sean Dunne and the numerous other developers who bid against him in the so-called 'Battle of Ballsbridge' clearly did.

Not that Dunne, who famously splashed out €1.5m on his wedding to Gayle Killilea in 2004, was the biggest spender in Dublin's embassy belt.

Just around the corner on Shelbourne Road, Ray Grehan paid a record €84m per acre -- or €171m -- for the former UCD Veterinary College site, thinking he could refashion it into yet another high-end retail and residential development. Mr Grehan also believed there would be a thriving market for concierge serviced apartments of the type found in London, Paris and New York in the more humble setting of Stillorgan. Today, much of the unfinished Grange development resides with Nama, while many of its completed units have been acquired by people of more modest means through Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown County Council's social and affordable housing scheme.

But even if Messrs McNamara, Dunne and Grehan offended God in their race to buy up the country, they were only ever trotting after Ireland's own King Midas, Derek Quinlan.

The former tax inspector turned financier borrowed and spent a fortune on acquiring properties here and around the globe.

Among Mr Quinlan's greatest punts were the €1bn Citigroup Tower in London and the headquarters of Banco Santander in Madrid which he acquired in partnership with UK investor Glenn Maud in 2008 for €1.9bn.

Mr Quinlan's insatiable appetite for the finer things in life, meanwhile, saw him amass a multitude of trophy assets which included a €75m villa on the French Riviera, two townhouses on New York's Upper East Side, purchased for $18.7m and $26.2m respectively in 2005, and a €5m yacht.

Sunday Independent